Last night (December 6), I was honored to watch the debut of the VH1 reality series, "T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle," with the stars and their families at Cinebistro in the Brookhaven area of Atlanta. Cinebistro, a movie theater/gourmet restaurant, graciously accommodated the 80-plus guests, which included T.I.’s and Tiny’s mothers, their children, and even Tip’s grandmother.
Upon his entry into the building, Tip lovingly hugged his family and friends, and his children were welcomed with hugs and words of congratulations. The first impression I got is that this is a very close and affectionate family. I observed Tip often standing near his mother-in-law with his arm around her. He is obviously very concerned about his family, and that includes more than his immediate family, but his extended family, and business associates as well.
As I watched the introduction, which explained the difficult process of Tip’s release from federal custody in recent months, I found it hard to watch. To see Tiny getting her hair and makeup done in preparation to see her husband outside of prison for the first time - then, to spend a few hours with him before he entered a halfway house and didn’t come back home for almost another month - I truly realized and appreciated Tiny as a long-suffering wife who has endured a lot for her relationship, yet it is evident how deeply she loves her husband. Unfortunately, stories like hers are all too common in these modern times.
As I watched the show premiere, one of my earliest thoughts was, “Well, they aren’t the Cosbys.” But, honestly, T.I. and Tiny are probably one of the better representations of African-American married life in today’s media. While they are a blended family - she has a daughter, and he has three children from previous relationships - the two of them are married and share two sons by blood. Both Tip and Tiny are successful in their own right, with interests in music, television, and films. In fact, Tip shared with me that, “it’s just an honor to be able to share success and create success with my family.” He added, “We’re together, we strong, and an example and representation of Black families in America.”
As divorce rates continue to rise in America, the age of first-time marrieds has risen, and over 40 percent of African-American women currently unmarried. Single parenthood has left scores of mothers with children from previous relationships, a fact that has recently influenced the scripted BET television series, "Reed Between the Lines," and previously, shows like the Will Smith-produced "All Of Us." Like it or not, blended families like Tip and Tiny’s are more of our norm in 2011 - if we are married at all.
The kids are the most compelling and interesting members of "T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle;" like their famous dad, they are funny and sincere by nature. The most talked about part of the show was when Tip was in route to rehearse for his BET Hip Hop Awards appearance, his first appearance since being released from prison. He had to choose between arriving on time and seeing his son, Domani, play in his football game. After a brief deliberation, Tip asked his driver to turn the car around. In the theater as we watched the scene unfold, his family burst into applause, and my first thought was, 'I wonder how many times in the past he would have just kept going?'
"T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle" appears to be a great show that explores what one of the prevailing versions of what it means to be an African-American, modern family. The past few years have shown that they're clearly not perfect, but in the midst of their imperfections, we just may learn something about keeping it real and keeping it all love.
"T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle" airs Mondays at 9pm on VH1. Follow T.I. at @Tip and Tiny at @TinyMajorMama. Follow AllHipHop.com senior contributing writer, Biba Adams, on Twitter at @BibatheDiva.